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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Primitive/Survival Skills-Native American Basketry Day at the Kaweah Preserve

My wife and I had the pleasure to attend a basket making demonstration that included class's if you were so inclined. I spent most of the day wondering from class to class and garnering some priceless knowledge from local Native American folks about basketry and the plants used. I believe most of the folks were from different groups of the Miwok tribe. I learned a lot of good stuff and saw some fantastic works of art. Everyone was extremely helpful and answered my many questions about native plants and basketry techniques. There was a woman teaching about the tule, a member of the bulrush family, genus Scripus. At onetime the valley was covered with marshy areas and the primary plant was the tule. The natives made their house's, sleeping mats, floor covering, rafts, duck decoys, basketry, and even clothing from this versatile plant. Sadly, there is very little of this wonderful plant left. When the valley was settled, the first thing the pioneers did was to drain the marsh's for agricultural purposes. The tule disappeared as well as the local natives. You would be hard pressed to find a decent size patch nowadays.
We bought some of the tule items. I'll post pictures of them in another post.
Here is some info on the different plants used locally:
White root-the root of a local species of Carex sedge. Not sure which species.
Redbud bark-the bark of the western redbud tree, Cercis occidentalis
Willow-a native species of Salix, perhaps Arroyo willow Salix lasiolepis
Bracken fern-one of the native ferns that grown in the foothills and mountains-species unknown
Soap root-Chlorogalum pomeridianum a versatile native plant used for food, soap and fiber brush's
Deer grass Muhlenbergia rigens. a native grass, fairly common
Tule-Scirpus lacustris a once common native that had a variety of uses

Here's a link to the event which is held every year.

What Native American get together would be complete without drumming?
Toy cradle boards made from willow and woven with redbud bark and white root.
Here's an end shot of tule. Notice the numerous air pockets? This stuff is a great insulator and floats like cork.
Some more tule and some items made from it.
Tule dolls, miniature berry baskets, and duck decoys.
This class is doing coiled basketry using deer grass.
This incredible basket is made with coiled deer grass and using dyed bracken fern, and redbud bark for decoration.

A shot of the lid and a close up of the decoration-dark brown=bracken fern reddish brown=redbud bark.

Yet another shot of that beautiful basket.
These ladies are working with deer grass to make coiled baskets.

Heres a shot of some coiled deer grass-a lot of work to make a basket but the out come is fantastic!

This photo shows a basket with brush's made from soap root. The basket may have been used to clean or sift seeds and other food stuffs.
This photo show's bundles of redbud bark-big bundle tied with red string, dyed bracken fern-the dark chocolate brown bundle, and natural colored bracken fern, the tan bundle. Also shown are some pieces of obsidian, a deer leg bone and a leg bone awl, a bundle of sage, and a musical instrument made from split bamboo.
I like the photo in the frame. Those are some wonderful NA baskets!
This is one of the teachers who taught coiled pine basketry. The needles are used to sew the coils together with various fibers and plant materials.
This is the burden basket class. They are making miniature versions of the burden basket.
This tub is used for soaking basketry materials to make them pliable and supple.
Burden basket class. Beginning the bottom weave using white root and willow shoots.
The beginnings of a burden basket.
The first weaves are the hardest part.
The completed bottom of a burden basket.
Here's a bundle of willow shoots and a partially completed burden basket.
This photo shows a cradle mat made from willow woven with white root and redbud bark. There are some willow shoot bundles under it.
This teacher is cutting tule into lengths for making dolls, duck decoys, and berry baskets.
This is one of David Garcia's baskets made from coiled pine needles. I think the weaving material is dyed raffia.
This is my wifes pine needle coiled basket beginning.

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